Noe Valley Voice April 1997


More and More Mouths to Feed:
Brandon and Brandon Brio

By Anne Vitro

Brandon 6 and Brandon 7 arrived in the world at 3:40 p.m. on March 13, and the boys' parents knew exactly what to expect. Gene and Em Brio are now the proud parents of eight boys, each of whom weighed 8 pounds, 2 ounces, and each of whom has the same cheerful temperament and wavy brown hair. That's right...the boys are clones!

The boys range in age from newborn to 6, and are named Brandon 1, Brandon 2, Brandon 3, Juan, Brandon 4, Brandon 5, Brandon 6, and Brandon 7. "We really love the name Brandon," says Em, "and in Gaelic it name means `he who buys wholesale.'" But why "Juan"? "That's when we were living on Cesar Chavez Street," Gene says.

Recent news about successful sheep and monkey cloning just makes the Brios roll their eyes and smile. "Sheep, schmeep," she laughs. "Noe Valley's been quietly cloning for years!" Through trial and error ("Let's not talk about the errors!" jokes Gene) and an assortment of supplies from Walgreen's and Radio Shack, Gene and Em figured out how to clone their first baby boy, Brandon 1.

In the game of parenting one-upsmanship, the Brios surely have an unbeatable full house (actually, 8 of a kind). They take comfort in the knowledge that their children are all exactly the same. "We don't really like surprises," says Gene. Em explains, "Originally, we thought we'd just clone Brandon once, but when you've got a good thing, you just want more. Then we moved into this fixer-upper, and we knew we'd need more helping hands."

The couple met in 1984. They almost split up after the sixth child, but then they called radio talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who browbeat them into taking responsibility for their brood.

Gene is not a fertility expert, but rather a traffic engineer whose specialty is the installation of "Yield" signs. "I used to be in `Stop Signs,'" he said.

Em works part-time as an organic nutritional counselor, who tailors diets based on the zodiac. "Don't eat celery if you're a Gemini," she advises solemnly.

Though too young to re-wire the old chandeliers that hang in the house, the boys are obviously talented. "Ooh, look at that," marvels Em, as Brandon 5 pours oatmeal into a heating duct. "He's going to be a great scientist someday." Meanwhile, Brandon 7, who they've already nicknamed "Daredevil," falls asleep on the family cat, and Brandon 2 and Juan wave happily at the ceiling.

Brandon 3 has been talking since he was 17 months, says Mom proudly. Of course, Brandons 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7 and Juan also began talking at 17 months. Em points out that each of the boys has 10 fingers (they did not disclose the number of toes) and says that the younger boys actually cry when they are upset or tired.

"And they all love keys!" exclaims Gene, as Brandon 3 demonstrates that he also loves electrical outlets and creating showy displays of sparks.

The Brandons and Juan provide hours of endless entertainment for their parents, but Gene adds, "As soon as they can put up sheetrock, they'll be a big help with the renovations!"